“Don’t call me baby.You got some nerve, and baby that’ll never do”.

There is so much to think about when you are a group fitness instructor: you create a class profile, scour iTunes for music & make sure it all makes sense. Then there is the practical side: remember your kit, your shoes, iPod, back up CDs, mic shields, every type of batteries under the sun, water bottle, beginners’ hand outs, pens etc.

You arrive at the gym and two bikes are broken and the class is fully booked, mic is not working, you find the electric fan DOA. Life happens 🙂 I am not complaining. Nobody made me do it.

But only once you start teaching the class, that’s when the REAL challenge begins. You are facing anything between 1 to 50 people. All individuals with different expectations.

We have all heard the famous: “you cannot please everyone” and it is true. Not with your musical taste, class structure etc. But I want to focus on something else today: client/participant approach.

Say what? Well, how do we refer to the people who came to take our classes, how do we come across? Are we aware of that? Do we ask for/get any feedback?

Today I had a girl in my class whom I have never seen before. She came 15min early and she was very clear and vocal: “I take 4 classes a week. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But not on Wednesday. I cannot stand the teacher. She keeps calling me “sweetheart”! I told her my name is Georgia and I am not her sweetheart but she kept doing it!”

It can be a struggle to be friendly and approachable but not condescending. Especially if you are not sure if people didn’t hear your advice or just decided to ignore it. And if they did – was there a reason for it?

That is why trying to develop a rapport with your groups is so important. I know, I know: what about the places where you get new people every class? I make it a point to be at the studio and set up 15min before a class. If I teach on a weekend it is sometimes 30min.

This gives me the precious time to walk around, give 121 attention, get people’s attitude sussed out: are they going to be receptive or they already know it all? Will they laugh at a joke?

I also try and stay there for 10min after a class for the same reasons. And believe me, walking around the studio during the class helps too. Sometimes you keep repeating a cue: “Shoulders down. Elbows in.” but the person you are directing it to doesn’t react. But when you go by and gently tap their elbow or shoulder – they do.

I personally don’t like when people I don’t know call me honey, sweetheart, babe, whatever. I do my best to avoid it when referring to people in my classes.

I also tend to say before the start: “If you hear me say NO BOUNCING for the 15th time and you feel like you may throw your bottle at me if I say it again – I am fully aware of how many times I have repeated it. There is a reason for it: someone is still bouncing. Look around: if you can see nobody bouncing – IT IS YOU!”

I also have my feedback forms that I give to people about once a year where I ask about my catch phrases, any pet peeves etc. Then I sit down with a glass of wine and go through them andI know what needs work. The forms (even if e-mailed) often work better that face to face conversation as people won’t always tell you in your face what negative points they find in your teaching.

How do you get your feedback? How do you refer to your participants? Are you good with names? How well do you know your regulars? Do you ever meet socially outside the gym as a group? I would love to hear from you.




Why Cycling Is Simply The Dog’s Bollocks


It is with heavy heart that I have to tell you: I am back in the freezing London after 2 weeks of what can easily be called trip of a lifetime (at least for me and at least so far). After two weeks of cycling across the stunning Costa Rica in hot temperature and extreme humidity, two weeks of having rice and peas at least twice a day and staying in some breathtaking places left me close to tears on the last day. And that wasn’t only because of the 5.5hours of delay in Houston, courtesy of United Airlines, which meant camping at the airport from 6pm until 2:20am the next day.

If I were to give Costa Rica and the amazing trip and people I met over the last two weeks justice, this post would take days to write and read so I decided to approach it differently and make it a sort of advertisement for outdoor cycling – as if it needed one 🙂

Flora & fauna in Costa Rica

I have never been anywhere like it! Wherever you turn you see birds of every colour, size and type. There are all kinds of herons, egrets, hawks, vultures, stunning and loud macaws and the amazing toucans. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me and that was not good enough to capture the birds but I have seen them all.

Some places like Tortuguero can only be described as butterfly madness.

Plants? Flowers? Don’t get me started on that. From all kinds of gingers, cocoa, oil palms, pineapple fields, sugar cane, coffee, banana plantations, star fruit, palms, the list is never ending…

I was gobsmacked with all the colours and wonders around me. I had a big grin on even when I was in my room on my own.

Yes, there were creepy crawlies like the massive spiders outside some of the cabins. Or the big squashed tarantula on the road which gave me the creeps. Or the slithering garden snake outside one of the rooms in Tortuguero but we also saw a sloth scratching itself high up in the tree, we saw capuchin and squirrel monkeys, we were woken up by howler monkeys on more than one occasion.

There were iguanas we saw in the branches on our boat trips but there were also a few massive ones in the trees in a local park where we stopped for a short rest. You know, the way you see squirrels in London. You look up and there is a huge iguana chilling in the shade.

Not to mention that on one of the first days we saw these:


We also saw a little crock from a little bridge on a river that we were cycling through. It was all a bit surreal. And our guide was fantastic at spotting all these wonders.




Food in Costa Rica

If you are a cyclist you know that if you face a long ride or a short but hilly one it’s important to fuel up beforehand. We all know about the benefits of slow energy releasing porridge etc right? Wrong. I have been converted: RICE AND PEAS rule! We had breakfasts and lunches the Costa Rican way. That means loads of fruit, yes. Great coffee, yes. Juices – especially the fresh fruit frozen in portions and then put through a blender with some water – mhmmm… But also rice and peas (black beans) at least twice a day. And eggs. Huevos. Scrambled huevos. And plantain. This is like rocket fuel people! And my IBS didn’t mind it either 🙂

Don’t get me wrong: you can get burgers, pizza etc but “casados”: rice and peas + chicken/beef/pork/fish, are the staple. And plantain. Boiled or fried. Loads of it.

You also get to taste bananas, watermelon and pineapples that were picked RIPE and not green and RIPENED AT HOME. What a difference. And a welcome refreshment midmorning when you are on the road. especially when the bus driver takes them out from the cooler.

Oh, and you can drink water from the tap. Everywhere. Yes, it tastes like water from the tap but the point is – it’s safe to drink it.


I just came back yesterday so 21st of November and we got there on the 7th. It is almost the end of the rain season which meant hot but dry (as in clear skies but humid in most places) until 1-2pm. Then generally the downpours start. They are very warm though but can be torrential and last for quite some time. Not fun to cycle through. But the rains finish in December so that is something to consider.

Temperature? It was about 25 to 30-something degrees all the time. Apart from the high altitude places in the mountains. Hot hot hot! You can take waterproof jacket for hikes but believe me – you will boil wearing them so it is better to get a bit wet…


I went out there with Exodus who I went cycling with before and it has proved again to be a company worth recommending. You can check out their offer here. There were people in my group who have done 20 trips with them and have never been disappointed.

Costa Rica is a poor country and when you look at the houses as you pass by through villages and small towns you can see people live simple life – even though they all have smart phones 🙂 The accommodation we were put in over the two weeks though was incredible. There were couple of basic places especially in big towns like Fortuna where the room looked more like a motel room but all the remote location were dreamy.

Warning: little lizards you can sometimes find on the walls in your bedroom? Harmless and eat all the mosquitos. Use loads of bug repellent anywhere you are. Nights in the jungle are very noisy: insects, frogs and some very annoying birds. Then the howler monkeys. Sometimes bats fighting with birds on your roof. Sometimes things running on the deck of your cabin? You may want NOT to check what that is. Just use earplugs 🙂

Cycling in Costa Rica

We spent two weeks on these beauties:


These were really MTBs with suspension but they were perfect as we had a couple of days off road. Same gearing as my beloved Pinnacle Hybrid made it very easy to ride. And when caught up in rain or on gravel etc they give you a great grip. We spent a few days cycling on the PanAmerican highway with loads of traffic, big lorries, buses and four-by-fours. They are noisy and fast however the road is really wide so you don’t feel squashed and you soon get used to the noise etc.

The bikes we were provided with had the Cat’s Eye odometers and then I used Strava to document our rides.

Costa Rica is made for cycling. In some parts the hills are crazy difficult and the heat makes it twice as hard to climb them. And the altitude. Then the descents are deadly in places because of all the tight turns and oncoming lorries. I managed to record a little over 40mph downhill which is a record for me.

Unfortunately I got into a bit of health problems right before the day when we were to face the hardest 8km climb and all I could do was to be the team photographer:

Who is this type of trip for?

EVERYONE! Man, you would not believe the fitness and determination of my team of 16 🙂 Were they pros? Nope. Apart from Brendan who was nothing short of a tank on that worst hill and climbed to the top even before the tour guide 🙂 Elaine only started cycling outdoors 3 months ago.

I didn’t ask everyone for their age but I know the youngest in the group was 34 (the mechanic was 19 but he’s a Paralympian cyclist – yes, you have heard that right) but there were people in their 50s, 60s and maybe more than that.

One of us (I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning it) is even a Parkinson sufferer who keeps fit by cycling around the world with his wife. We all had one thing in common though – the love of cycling and the great outdoors.

Our guide Memo and Dionisio (our mechanic) took turns at leading and closing the group and we could all cycle at our own pace which was fantastic. And having the bus with us all the time meant that when I got into trouble I could just follow everyone from the bus. A couple of times when the temperature soared a few more people chose the bus for a part of the day too.

At the end of each day though we all smelled just as bad as each other regardless of age and profession, we were all just as hungry as each other and we could not wait to cycle again the next day.


I could not have asked for a better group of support team in Costa Rica. I think my next trip may be this one (the one I thought I had booked all along):


Have you been on a cycling holiday? Would you recommend it? Did you organise it alone or used a tour operator? I did a few long weekends with family and friends like Amsterdam or Norfolk  or West Sussex using just Airbnb accommodation. If you have any questions about my trip just drop a line in the comments.


The crazy Canadian Lindsey and Guillermo the guide.

I say goodbye and you say hello! (just for 2 weeks)

Just a few lines. Suitcase packed – 3kg over and cannot make it different regardless of what tactics I use 🙂 Oh well! Tomorrow I board a plane for New York then change for another one to Costa Rica for 2 weeks of cycling holiday. I can’t wait!

Not sure if I will be able to post anything when I am there – or if I have enough time for that but expect a nice looong post when I am back on 21 November.

I will leave you with a few snaps from my photo shoot for the upcoming website:


And keep up the good work challengers! First week is behind us. If you want to join us – you can still do it! Check out what the challenges are all about here. Keep sharing your comments and photos of the green smoothies here and on the Smart Fitness FB page here.

Ride on!

6 Things That You Think Are Good For You But Will Stop You From Achieving Your Fitness Goals

It’s an absolutely stunning afternoon outside. The fog is gone and the sun is out. The leaves are red , yellow and gold. I love autumn. But this morning the picture was altogether different. If it was a picture at all.

There was nothingness. No hope. You couldn’t see further then a few steps ahead. It was like that at 8am. And 9. And 11. And even 12. It only changed at 1pm when I gave up hope. Suddenly I looked through the window and it was picture perfect.

It is a great metaphor for what happens when you take on a fitness challenge. You are all fired up, plans drawn, schedule sorted, good intentions at the ready and then s*** happens. You have to stay longer at work. Again. Kids get sick. Then you do. Then suddenly apparently it’s almost Christmas and everybody starts panicking. And next thing you know your fitness is at number #78 on your TO DO list. You can’t see a way out.

There are things you can’t control but the following 6 you can.

  1. I have been doing 3-4 classes every week. I can’t do anymore.

If you do that many you definitely deserve praise. Some people struggle with two. And I am sure you have seen results of your fitness regime. But our bodies are extremely clever and within a few months you will hit a plateau. No, you don’t have to send your children into care so you can do 8 classes a week… Just change it up a bit. The key is  WHEN and HOW MUCH.

No point of changing class schedule every 2 weeks as you won’t even give your body a chance to tell you if they work. But every 3 months try something different. And even when you do let’s say Bodypump twice a week for 3 months make sure you steadily progress with the mount of weight you lift.

2. Let me try the latest miracle supplement or fad diet.


Don’t. Please. It’s about eating everything but in moderation. Enjoy it. Don’t just eat it because you think you should. If you go for home made green smoothie make sure it tastes good so drinking it is not a chore. If you fancy a Kit Kat don’t go for a diet replacement because you think you should. If you do, probably 30min later you will go for that Kit Kat anyway. Just make sure before you get your treat that you are really hungry and not thirsty and eat slowly enjoying every bite not devouring the bar like it’s going out of fashion.

3. I am going fat free.


Do not obsess over FAT FREE products. Fat is what gives taste to foods. When you take fat away you need to replace it with something to make the food palatable. What is the substitute? You guessed it: SUGAR. That is much worse and much more addictive option. Prepare as much food at home as you can. Know what’s in it.

4. Giving 50% during your gym classes/sessions


Quality over quantity. Commitment, the right mindset and self-discipline get you lean and toned. People make the mistake of going 50% at their spin class because they have Bodycombat straight after where they will give another 50%. Give 100% in the first class. If you can face one more do it. But if it is too much – go to the sauna.

5. Getting obsessed with the scales.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight if you are overweight and it’s obvious you will want to check your results. My advice: instead of starting every day, every gym session and finishing every session and every day on the scales, pay attention to how you feel. Do you huff and puff walking up the stairs? If you run for the bus do you need 2min to catch your breath or just 30sec? Can you get in those pre-baby jeans? Weigh yourself but not more than once every couple of weeks.


Your weight may fluctuate by 1-2kg in one day especially if you are a woman on your period.

How about fitness testing instead of overusing scales? Strong is the new skinny they say.

6. Having energy drinks after 20 min on the elliptical


If you read labels on the bottles they clearly state that these drinks should be used when you are doing high intensity training for OVER 45min. I would say that even a high intensity45min spin class does not call for these. If you go on a 2-3hr run or a bike ride or decide to do 2-3 spin classes back to back then you will find these drinks useful. Otherwise water will do just fine. Sugar free coconut water is very popular. I use water with a bit of squash if I have two classes back to back.

What is your drink of choice during the gym workout? Which of the 6 do you see the most around at your gym? Which one are you guilty of? Or is there a biggie I missed out on? I would love to hear your thoughts.

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” – Jerry Rice (#1 NFL Player Of All Time)

We have a lift off! 1st of November has arrived which means Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge has begun! You can read more about it here but in a nutshell it’s about completing 50 classes in 120 days. You can do 50 cycling classes or 25 cycling and 25 any other classes that your gym offers. Last year was a great success but this year we are going tougher yet.


Each month you will have an option to join a Challenge Within a Challenge: 30 day extra focus. In November we are taking on 30 day #greensmoothie challenge. Check YouTube for my good friend’s Sergei’s recipes and advice here.

There is a 5min video for every day. Please note: it’s not about giving up food and replacing it with smoothies! It’s about adding a green smoothie to your every day.

Here is mine from today 🙂



To sign up: go onto my FB page and send me your e-mail address so I can send you the progress chart. Set yourself a smart goal or two. Take your measurements and/or “before” picture and you are good to go. 120 days to complete 50 classes and achieve your goals. Check my previous post (link above) for details.


Staying on track will be hard at times: weather, Christmas rush, overindulging etc because life happens. That’s why I encourage you to:

  • keep an eye on the FB page for motivational messages and videos (one is up already)
  • talk to others who signed up – I am giving away yellow wristbands to all Challenger; when you see someone wear it use it as an excuse to talk to them
  • any questions are welcome on here, FB or twitter @spinbella


What is stopping you? I will be away for 2 weeks in November so keeping up will be tough but it is at the end of the day a CHALLENGE, is it not? 🙂

What do you think will be the toughest part? How can we help?